The night he came home!
Even people who don't watch slasher movies know of Halloween, with it's iconic Michael Myers in that white mask. What a better day for a horror movie then on Halloween anyways? As one of the first box-office hits in the genre, it's no wonder that it's a classic - it also has one John Carpenter directing it, so we can be relatively assured that it would at least be amusing. So beyond all the nostalgia, let's figure out just what we have here to draw us all back in.
Our plot line here is a bit simple, although to some who like everything to be spelled out for them it might be a tad confusing. We start with a POV (point of view) shot from a younger Myers, as he stalks around his house with a kitchen knife and eventually stabs his sister to death. Fast forward years later, and we discover he's housed at a "secure" crazy farm, and that his doctor Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasence) believes him to be nothing but pure evil. That and that alone is generally the only reason given to us as to why Myers kills anyone in this film, and in turn some might be left with a bit of...dissatisfaction or confusion over how empty a reason it is. Myers doesn't care though, and after stealing the car that Loomis rode in on he decides to return to his old home.
Meanwhile, with that setup out of the way, we begin to focus on our actual characters - namely Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), a teen who babysits for a family nearby. Her friends are a bit more randy than her, indeed planning most of their night around getting some "action" before the night is through. As the day progresses it's normal way, Laurie keeps noticing a strange man following them around, who has quite the penchant for disappearing before anyone else notices him. Things keep going at this normal-day pace rather uneventfully until the night hits, in which case the killing start.
Of course, Loomis didn't just give up on the situation, and has gone to the town in search of Myers, informing the police to keep an eye out. It's the sort of plot that only really works on Halloween, as otherwise a guy wearing a white mask all the time might be a bit suspicious to everyone - but at the same time since there isn't really any major reason why Myers selects who he targets it's also a bit of a moot point to call it a plot. We could argue that (thanks to one scene) he's doing it in a strange twisted way of reliving killing his sister, or that for whatever reason his 'evil' desires killing of young women, but it's never fully explained (at least in this movie). Again, being a slasher I don't feel that the plot here as nearly as important as the tension that it can bring to bat, but if your looking for an example of a better plot competitor Friday the 13th would be a better bet (of course, it also had the advantage of not coming out till two years later).
Audio is a bit of a mixed bag on my copy - and maybe if I ever update the thing to a straight DVD or special edition it might improve my only gripes about it. The score is memorable (a lot of folks know that creepy 5/4 time tune) and the actors do a pretty good job doing their parts, my only complaint is that the audio is unbalanced at times. Whereas some lines are perfectly audible, others are hard to hear, somehow being quieter than the rest - but don't turn it up too loud else you end up being deafened by the next normal level sound to come in. Again, it's entirely possible it's jut my copy of the movie that's like this - or it might just be the movie showing its age. There's a few parts where the acting can seem a little over the top or mellowed out for the events that are happening on screen, but most of the time they work quite well - especially when it comes to setting you up for some scares. Added effect is given to Myers by adding in a heavy breathing effect whenever he is close to the camera, twisting what could just be an ordinary scene into something a bit more dark and possibly perverse.
Effects are incredibly light in this film, with actual on screen violence usually resulting in no blood what-so-ever (outside of a few cuts on Laurie and some fake blood on a few of the corpses). The only real outside the normal costume would end up being the mask of Michael Myers, which just happens to be a decently modified Star Trek William Shatner mask. Its a very simple thing, but the fact that it's so devoid of any emotion helps to cement the fact that this guy isn't what he might appear to be. The rest of the actors all wear things that the characters would actually wear, which doesn't leave much to talk about - I mean, sure it's accurate, but I'm no fashion expert and even if I was I think it might be a little boring to hear me prattle on about how that pair of shoes should not be worn with those pants. Loomis is the only other person in the film that looks as though he's not the same as everyone else, wearing his big old trench coat that lends him a very detective feel in my opinion - a bit appropriate for a guy trying to track down a killer who's escaped.
Scare wise, there is a lot of tension building towards the later portion of the movie, when things start getting more dangerous. There's also a couple of different jump-scares, be it through audio or just events, placed throughout to keep the audience on it's feet. Most probably won't be too frightened by it in this day and age, but some still might get quite a thrill out of it (particularly the jump scares, as the entire purpose of such is to just catch you off guard and make you jump). It's nothing too heavy, but slasher films never struck me as films that were meant to flat out scare you in the ways some horror movies do, but instead serve up a few gratifying moments of being caught off guard more than anything else.
All in all, it's a classic and it feels as such. There isn't anything here that's particularly mind blowing to a modern audience, but at the same time it's nice to see movies like this before they got so over-glamoured with themselves that it was all about the next kill and who can top it. Halloween comes of as a suspenseful little tale with a few cheap scares, and a lot of memorable things came from it (namely the mask and theme song). It has a bit of nudity, and some violence (a body count of 5 if you count a dog) even though that violence is normally devoid of blood. It's an enjoyable watch, even after all these years, and if you happen to find a copy that doesn't have the same audio issues mine did then it's only major problems should be fixed for even more enjoyment.